Thursday, 17 May 2012

Sarah Lucas: Make Love, Situation, London (16 February-26 May 2012)

I am a great fan of Sarah Lucas and her work.  I love the way she wears her gender politics on her sleeve and unapologetically sticks to a form of artistic expression which has altered little over the last 15 years, yet which still appears fresh, packs a powerful punch and retains its relevance within today’s contemporary art scene, a scene which uncomfortably shuffles its feet when confronted with overtly feminist work.
I read two reviews before visiting Make Love, one by Colin Glen in Art Monthly and the other by Coline Milliard for  As a fledging art historian and critic, far be it for me to make judgments on other people’s writing styles, but Glen’s constant artist name dropping when describing Lucas’s work and references to complex theoretical discourses may fit the required writing style of the publication, but left me struggling to understand exactly what he thought of her work and I feel completely missed the point of what Lucas is all about.  In contrast, Milliard’s more accessible writing style really reflected Lucas’s no-nonsense attitude.  For me, it is fascinating to compare both reviews and discover and decide which style of writing appeals to me as a reader and in developing my own writing.
So, to the exhibition itself!  The whole premise of handing over Sadie Coles’ new Situation project space located next to the main gallery in Burlington Place to Lucas who will curate a year’s programme of her own work, is testament to the strength of the long standing and personal relationship between the artist and her dealer.  In Make Love, Lucas presents ten new sculptures which all make use of her trademark stuffed tights, metal buckets and concrete blocks.  Titles such as “Pussy”, “Hard Nud” and “Tit Teddy” reflect Lucas’s familiar hard-arse, in-your-face intimacy in her gender-based pieces, while the biomorphic Nuds series offer a more reflective and expanding vocabulary.  Two printed wallpapers, “Priére de Toucher” and “Get Off Your Horse”, both earlier works slightly readjusted and represented twelve and seventeen years (respectively) since they were first created.  Lucas’s reasoning for including these two pieces and references to ancient myth contained in the press release, require further investigation.
Lucas’s work is as much about formal qualities and material understanding as it is about social commentary.  Despite the rough and ready, do-it-yourself attitude of artist run spaces which Situation alludes to with its shabby interior of stripped back walls and bare floor, the work is almost mute within such an austere setting.  The severity of both her work and the interior almost cancel themselves out.  When her sculptures are installed and viewed in venues such as the Freud Museum in 2000 and more recently during her week’s residency at the St John Hotel in Soho as part of last year’s Frieze Art Fair, the juxtaposition between her use of everyday and domestic objects against more formal and dare I say it, decorative interiors, adds a friction between the work and the viewer which forces the viewer to reflect longer on such work.
Despite this, Making Love proves that Lucas has remained a constant and forceful presence in the British art scene since the heady yBa years of the early 1990s.  In a 2006 interview for The Guardian, when asked what words or phrase she overuses the most, Lucas replied “go away, get a knob, come back, we'll talk about it”.  Such is the sentiment of the artist, such is the sentiment contained within her work. 

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